CVIndependent

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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

When we decided to put a story about police-involved killings on the cover of our July print edition, we had no idea that the month would be dominated by news about police-involved killings—and the killings of police.

Yet that’s exactly what happened. The deaths of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, La., and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minn., sparked yet more outrage about the excessive use of force by law-enforcement officers. The country watched in horror as Micah Johnson mowed down police officers who were watching over a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas, killing five officers and injuring nine other officers and two bystanders. Then came the murder of three law enforcement officers, and the wounding of three others, again in Baton Rouge, La., by Gavin Long.

These terrible deaths prove, yet again, that our country has some deep and serious problems. Way, way too many people are dying at the hands of law enforcement. On the flip side, while the vast majority of police officers in this country are fantastic, some troubled souls view all cops as being bad. And, of course, systemic racism is alive and well.

None of these problems will be solved overnight—especially considering the fact that one of this country’s two major parties is pushing an agenda that marginalizes LGBT Americans, Mexican immigrants, Muslims and many others. Sadly, more blood will be spilled before things get better.

That’s not to say there’s no reason for optimism. That aforementioned July cover story was about the fact that for the first time ever, the country has access to the fairly complete Fatal Encounters database of law-enforcement-related deaths—and that data can be analyzed and used to create better public policy.

It’s also important to note that violent-crime rates are much, much lower today—about two-thirds lower, in fact—than they were in the early 1990s. So even though it may not seem like it at times, our society today is way safer than it used to be.

Finally, despite all of the political rancor, many amazing people are working hard to unite us and develop understanding. For example, there’s Tizoc DeAztlan, a young local Democrat who’s working with his friend Hugh Van Horn, former president of the Coachella Valley Young Republicans, to hold a series of “Perspectives” discussion groups. Anita Rufus recently wrote about him in her Know Your Neighbors column; read that here.

You can also read Anita’s column in the August 2016 print edition of the Coachella Valley Independent, which is being distributed across the valley and High Desert this week. Enjoy, please, and drop me a line if you have any questions or comments.

Published in Editor's Note

I’ll never forget how I felt when I posted the first articles on CVIndependent.com.

On one hand, it was frustrating as hell. I was posting those first articles—mostly short event previews that I knew nobody would ever read—as I built the website from the ground up using an open-source content-management system.

It’s safe to say I didn’t necessarily know what I was doing, technology-wise. While my web-developer husband was around to help me when I got truly stuck, I was largely on my own—and there were several times when I launched into profanity-laced snits when the frustration became too much.

On the other hand … the experience was beyond exhilarating. Frustration aside, I knew I was taking the first steps toward building something that had the potential to become truly special.

Well, we’ve come a long way. More than 3 1/2 years have passed since I posted those first stories—and we’ve reached a milestone: On April 30, we posted our 3,000th piece at CVIndependent.com. (If you’re keeping score, this is No. 3,013).

Join Independent staffers, contributors, friends and readers as we celebrate this occasion on Tuesday, May 10, from 6 to 8 p.m. at Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill, 350 S. Indian Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. It’ll be a simple gathering; there will be no band, nor will there be any big speeches. Instead, the emphasis will be on acknowledging the community the Independent has built, and will continue to build, by finally giving the Coachella Valley an honest, ethical, professional alternative news voice.

I hope you’ll join us. Come and say hello if we’ve never met.

Thanks, as always, for reading and being part of our Independent family. Also: Be sure to pick up the May 2016 print edition of the Coachella Valley Independent, now available at more than 370 locations valley-wide.

Published in Editor's Note

I was not having a good day.

I’d just dropped off my car at the dealership. I was looking at almost $500 in maintenance and repairs—at a time when my budget didn’t have that $500 to spare.

I’d planned on waiting for my car at the dealership, but the service adviser recommended that he call the shuttle to take me home. The work could take a while, he said. I agreed; after all, I had a lot of work I needed to get done.

As I sat in the customers’ lounge and waited for the shuttle to arrive, I looked out at the sunny sky and tried, unsuccessfully, to ward off the unpleasant mood that was settling in. My sad feelings were snowballing … stress, money worries, tiredness, etc. I was missing my husband, whose work has taken him to San Francisco—while I remain tied to the Coachella Valley thanks to my business. Worst of all, doubt was setting in.

Am I doing the right thing? Is all of this—the long hours, the tight budget, the absence from my husband—worth it?

My mental malaise was interrupted by the service adviser’s voice. “Hey, buddy. The shuttle’s here.”

I grabbed my computer bag, walked outside and climbed into the van. I was the only passenger. As we pulled onto East Palm Canyon Drive, the driver commented on the amazing weather we’ve been having.

“Yeah, it’s gorgeous,” I said. “Too bad I have to spend the day inside working.”

“Oh, yeah?” the driver responded. “What kind of work do you do?”

“I own a local newspaper, the Coachella Valley Independent.”

The driver’s eyes lit up as turned his head to look at me. “Really? I love the Independent! I pick it up all the time at one of the dealers.”

He went on to explain that the restaurant-news column was his favorite feature, because he gets news from it that he can find nowhere else. We spent the rest of the short drive chatting about food and restaurant gossip.

As the van pulled up to my apartment complex, the driver turned and shook my hand. “It was great to meet you,” he said. “I really appreciate what you do.”

The doubt that had been settling in was gone. This is why I do what I do.

Thank you very much, Mr. Shuttle Driver. Thanks also to everyone else who offers kind words and constructive criticism regarding the Independent. The comments always seem to come at the perfect time. Really.

As always, thanks for reading the Independent—and be sure to pick up the April 2016 print edition, being distributed at 375 locations valley-wide this week.

Published in Editor's Note

A round of applause, please, for all of the small-business owners out there.

The unfortunate struggles of small-business owners are at the center of at least two of our recent stories. The piece that serves as the cover story in our March print edition discloses some terrible news: At the end of March, Schmidy’s Tavern—a Palm Desert bar and restaurant that has been a haven for local musicians and craft-beer lovers—will close, barring some sort of miracle. Owner Dennis Ford told Brian Blueskye the main reason for the closure is the fact that Schmidy’s landlord, Realty Trust Group, wants to raise the rent 112 percent.

“I can’t sell enough beer to justify a 112 percent rent increase,” Ford said, explaining that when be bought Schmidy’s, the lease he inherited was a relic of the Great Recession—and now that the economy is better, his landlords think they can jack up the rent.

Improving economies giveth, and improving economies taketh away.

Government red tape can also cause small businesses problems. For such an example, turn to our newest Restaurant News Bites column, which explains the move of Bernie’s Supper Club—which burned down on Christmas Day 2014—from Palm Springs to Rancho Mirage.

For the better part of a year, the owners of Bernie’s tried to get construction going on a new building in the same location as the original Bernie’s, on East Palm Canyon drive just south of downtown. However, due in part to problems with city government, the owners finally gave up—and headed southeast to Rancho Mirage, moving to an existing building on Highway 111. Keep your fingers crossed for a late-spring opening.

It’s a proven fact that the more people spend at local businesses, the better it is for the local economy. Multiple studies and analyses have proven that far more money stays in town when said money is spent at a locally owned business instead of a chain or big-box store. While exact numbers vary from study to story, around 68 cents per dollar spent at an independent business stays locally—whereas only 48 cents stays in town when spent at a chain.

The message in all of this: Support and savor local businesses. You never know when a money-hungry landlord or an electrical fire will take away your favorite business—and you’re making the whole local economy better when you spend your hard-earned dollars at an independent business as opposed to a chain.

Thanks, as always, for reading. By the way, the March 2016 print edition of the Coachella Valley Independent is now on newsstands valley-wide.

Published in Editor's Note

We’ve reached that time of year when it seems like there’s a big-deal event happening almost every weekend—a time of year which feverishly continues until the Stagecoach music festival closes out “season” in late April/early May.

Two of February’s biggest local events revolve around art: Modernism Week and the Palm Springs Fine Art Fair. Of course, we’re previewing both goings on. First, Brian Blueskye has penned a fantastic feature on modernist artist Nat Reed (whose art graces the cover of the February print version) as an entree into Modernism Week. Second, we use art—what else?—to preview the goings-on at the Palm Springs Fine Art Fair.

However, our new arts coverage doesn’t end there. The valley’s theater season is in full swing, and you can peruse reviews of two shows that are on the current boards: Desert Rose’s Angels in America and CV Rep’s A Class Act. For the more literary-minded, I’d like to direct you to a book excerpt from Independent contributor Alexis Hunter. Joi Lansing: A Body to Die For is a fantastic read.

I also would be remiss if I didn’t mention some goings-on in our Food and Drink section. I am sorry to report this is the final Sniff the Cap column by Deidre Pike, who has been writing about wine for the Independent since our launch. (That is, unless I can talk her into staying. Hey, I gotta try.) Deidre has been a friend and colleague of mine for two decades now, and her words added so much to this newspaper; she’ll be missed.

In related news: We’re looking for a wine columnist! If you think you have the proper knowledge and writing chops, drop me a line; my email address is below.

I’d also like to thank arts writer Victor Barocas for all of his work for the Independent over the last two-plus years. He, too, is leaving the ranks of Independent contributors. (In related news, we’re looking for new visual/fine arts contributors; again, email me if interested.)

As we say goodbye to Deidre and Victor, we’re saying hello a new contributor: Sean Planck. He is now writing a monthly column for the Independent focusing on the local happenings regarding medical marijuana; catch the debut edition of Cannabis in the CV here.

As always, your feedback and comments are appreciated.

Thanks, as always, for reading the Coachella Valley Independent, be it online, or in our print edition; the February issue is now in 370-plus locations across the valley and high desert. Enjoy.

Published in Editor's Note

This was supposed to be a very different Note From the Editor.

I’d planned to write about our fabulously successful Best of Coachella Valley 2015-2016 party (see several photos below) and then discuss our January 2016 print-edition cover story, which was supposed to be about discrimination at a local institution. (We’re still working on that piece; look for it in the near future.)

However, all of that changed on Dec. 10, when my friend George Zander, a well-known community activist, suddenly passed away.

George and his husband, Chris, were attacked in downtown Palm Springs on Nov. 1 in what police are calling a hate crime. After a brief altercation with a man who used the word “faggot,” George and Chris were attacked by that man and another man moments later in front of Sherman’s. Chris suffered a concussion after taking a tire iron to the head. George suffered a broken hip in the scuffle.

Post-attack, things seemed to be going OK. Chris was recovering from his injuries; George’s hip surgery was successful, and he was home after stints in the hospital and a rehabilitation facility. The police think they’ve caught the perpetrators, and the community was beautifully rallying behind George and Chris.

But on the morning of Dec. 10, George was rushed to Desert Regional Medical Center due to an emergency. He was gone within minutes. Chris told the world via Facebook that George died in his arms.

What all of this means in terms of the prosecution of the thugs who allegedly did this remained to be determined as of our press deadline.

What it means to the community is heartbreak.

Here at the Independent, we shifted gears and decided to make George the topic of the cover story in the January 2016 print edition, which is hitting streets this week. Brian Blueskye did a fantastic job of showing all that George has done over the years to help the afflicted in the Coachella Valley.

I last saw George on Nov. 18, the day after the benefit show on behalf of the Zanders that the Independent put together with Chill Bar. He was still in the rehab facility at the time; he went home several days later. George was typical George: His spirits were high, and he was already plotting his next bit of activism, telling me about something he’d recently learned about that he thought deserved media attention.

Once the holiday craziness is behind us, I am going to pursue that story that George told me about. If what George told me is correct, and it probably is, it’ll be an excellent piece. Look for that soon.

In the meantime, enjoy a handful of photos from the Best of Coachella Valley 2015-2016 party below.

Published in Editor's Note

Two years ago this month, a couple hundred people—Independent contributors, friends, advertisers and readers—gathered at Clinic Bar and Lounge in Palm Springs to celebrate the launch of our monthly print edition, and the one-year anniversary of CVIndependent.com.

Well, a lot has happened regarding the Independent in the 24 months since then. First and foremost, we’ve managed to keep going, distributing 24 quality print editions and publishing at least three pieces every weekday at CVIndependent.com. We launched our Independent Market, which has delighted readers and advertisers alike by bringing them together with half-price gift certificates. We won a national journalism award. We launched our Supporters of the Independent program. And most gratifyingly, we’ve gained a lot of readers and fans.

I think it’s time to celebrate again, yes?

Join the Independent staff and contributors from 6 to 9 p.m., Friday, Oct. 16, at Chill Bar, 217 E. Arenas Road in Palm Springs, for our Third Anniversary Party. There will be fantastic music, drink specials, door prizes and all sorts of other great stuff. You can also learn more about the Independent’s programs, including the Independent Market, the Supporters of the Independent, and the Independent’s new CV Job Center website, which we just launched.

Also, a tip: If you come up to me and say, “Hi, the Independent rocks!” I may just give you a card for a free drink.

One other thing we’ll be celebrating that night: The completion of the biggest journalism project the Independent has ever tackled.

In mid-September, I set up interviews with all 14 of the candidates for Palm Springs mayor and City Council; Brian Blueskye did the same thing with eight of the nine Desert Hot Springs candidates. (One DHS City Council candidate refused to respond to numerous messages from Brian.)

I asked all of the Palm Springs candidates a set of 10 questions; Brian asked all the DHS candidates a set of 10 questions. We let the candidates answer. We typed up those answers—and you can find the results at CVIndependent.com.

As always, thanks for reading. See you at Chill on Oct. 16!

Published in Editor's Note

One of the traditional jobs of the alternative press has been to cover the faults and foibles of other local media. After all, if we don’t do it, who else will?

Here at the Independent, we have not been doing that as much as I’d like. Sure, we’ve done some stuff here and there—railing on the advertising that masquerades as editorial coverage in other local publications, for example. But I think we could, and should, be doing it more.

This is one reason why I am excited about, of all things, our recent Restaurant News Bites column. Much of the column, which I wrote, focuses on a lazy, inaccurate story one local TV-news operation did—unfairly maligning a local business in the process.

Check it out, and let me know what you think.

That’s just one of the things we’ve done recently about which I am excited. After a summer hiatus, we’re welcoming back Deidre Pike’s fantastic wine column, Sniff the Cap. Our news section has recently been packed with great stories—on the financial dilemma facing local water agencies as they try to meet state-mandated conservation goals; on a unique operation the Palm Springs Police Department is conducting to curb bicycle theft; and on the phenomenon that is presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. That Bernie Sanders story was done for us by a writer for Seven Days, the alternative newspaper in Burlington, Vt.—the place where Sanders got his political start more than three decades ago, when he became the city’s mayor.

There's also Brian Blueskye's in-depth music story on local band the Yip Yops—who just signed an impressive deal with a management company/record label. You won’t believe the story about the chance encounter that ultimately led the Yip Yops to that deal.

By the way: You can find all of the aforementioned stories in the September print issue, hitting streets now.

In other news, I’d like to remind everyone of two things I mentioned last month: First: The initial round of our Best of Coachella Valley voting kicks off here at CVIndependent.com on Monday, Aug. 31.

Second: We’ve finally launched our Supporters of the Independent Program. Like what we do? Consider supporting us with an annual, monthly or one-time contribution. If you consider it and decide to contribute—fantastic! You’ll get some cool perks in return. If you decide against it, or are unable to do so, no worries: Our content, both print and online, will always remain completely free of charge. Find details on the Supporters of the Independent Program on here.

As always, thanks for reading.

Published in Editor's Note

There’s a lot of great stuff going on here at Independent World Headquarters (i.e., my apartment in downtown Palm Springs).

For one thing: We’ll be launching our Supporters of the Independent Program within weeks. We don’t charge a thing for our great content, whether it’s delivered online, via email or in print—and we never will charge a thing for our great content. However, we understand that some readers would happily contribute a small amount of money to the Independent, be it monthly or annually, to help us do what we do. The Supporters of the Independent Program will help readers do just that—while receiving some cool perks in return.

We’re still setting things up and working out the details. Watch CVIndependent.com, as well as our weekly e-Edition, for those details.

For another thing: We’ll be opening up Round 1 voting for the Best of Coachella Valley 2015-2016 on Monday, Aug. 31. We’ll ask you, our readers, to share your top choices in 120 or so categories. We’ll compile the results, and then launch a second round of voting, starting in October, among the top vote-getters in each category. The winners of that poll will be honored and celebrated in our December print issue, and at CVIndependent.com in late November.

Finally … I have a little bragging to do.

The results of the Association of Alternative Newsmedia (AAN) 2015 Altweekly Awards were announced on Saturday, July 18, at the annual AAN conference, held this year in Salt Lake City, Utah—and the Independent was one of the papers honored.

Brian Blueskye won an award in the Arts Feature category. He earned third place for his coverage of the Palm Springs mural ordinance, which he covered throughout 2014.

While journalism awards are a dime a dozen, the Altweekly Awards, given out each year by AAN, are a fairly big deal. (As of now, this is the only journalism contest the Independent enters.) Seventy-one publications across the United States and Canada, almost all of which are bigger in terms of resources than the Independent, entered this year’s contest. In other words, there’s a lot of competition, so it’s quite an accomplishment to win one.

Congratulations to Brian on the award. Here’s hoping it’s the first of many awards for him—and the Independent as well. Heck, maybe he’ll win one for his most recent big story for the Independent, “In Defense of DHS,” which serves as our August print cover story. Who knows?

In any case, as always, thanks for reading what we do.

Published in Editor's Note

It’s a claim that drives journalists crazy: Why is the media so negative? Why don’t newspapers cover positive news?

For argument’s sake, if we take the position that this claim is accurate (and it’s not; media sources generally give a lot of pixels, airtime or ink to arts, music, food and culture news that is, by its very nature, positive … but that’s a discussion for another time), much of our recent coverage here at the Coachella Valley Independent (including much of the content in our July print issue) is bucking the trend: A lot of our recent stories have landed on the positive side of things.

First: Brian Blueskye’s story on Yucca Valley 18-year-old Aiden Stockman, which is a must-read. I first learned about Aiden at Palm Springs Pride’s Harvey Milk Breakfast in May, at which Aiden and his mother spoke. Tears were flowing as Aiden and his mom talked about Aiden’s struggles with his gender identity—and the amazing acceptance Aiden’s Yucca Valley High School classmates showed him when he finally came out as transgender. However, not everything about Aiden’s story is happy: He faces a lot of obstacles when it comes to employment and his future.

After the Harvey Milk Breakfast, I asked Brian to get in touch with Aiden so we could share this story with a wider audience—and Brian did a fantastic job.

Second: Several of our recent news stories are rather uplifting. I recently penned a piece on the brand-new Sunny Dunes Antique District: A diverse group of businesses (many of which are new) in the area of Sunny Dunes Road just east of Palm Canyon Drive have banded together to work with the city and other groups to develop and promote the cool things going on the area.

Also: A couple of weeks ago, Brane Jevric brought us the story of Kane, a Palm Springs Police K-9 that took the place of a dog that was killed in the line of duty.

Of course, per usual, we’ve been publishing all sorts of great arts, food and music coverage, including a review of a fantastic brand-new revue at the Desert Rose Playhouse, a piece on delicious sour beers made in California, and an exclusive music mix from SynthEtiX, compliments Alex Harrington’s DuneCast.

As always, thanks for reading—and be sure to pick up the July 2015 edition of the Coachella Valley Independent, on newsstands now.

Published in Editor's Note

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